Review – Wolfenstein Youngblood
The new Wolfenstein reboot series has been a genuine treat, providing great stories, characters, and most importantly, a ton of Nazis to slaughter. From the excellent New Order and decent enough New Colossus to the experimental spin-off Old Blood, I was pretty excited for the latest entry, Youngblood, especially since it was being developed by Arkane, one of my favourite developers out there.
Set nineteen years after the events of New Colossus, the Nazi occupation has been completly driven out of the US by the legendary BJ Blazkowicz, who has since gone missing. You play as his daughters, Soph and Jess, as they venture out to Nazi-occupied Paris in search of their father.
The story takes a major back seat in Youngblood, especially when compared to how New Colossus was emphatic on its plot. What is there is passable but fairly straightforward and predictable, though the ending does compensate on that. I’m not going to talk much about it in order to avoid spoilers. Jess and Soph are a great duo who bring a lot to this game, as there’s a fair amount of banter and goofiness that works perfectly. If it wasn’t for their chemistry, the overall story would just fall apart completely. They won’t be to everyone’s liking, but for me it made the game that much more enjoyable.
Visually, Youngblood is exactly what you’d expect if you have played New Colossus. The brighter colour pallet is still here, and even though the world is bigger than before, the same level of detail is present, making it feel more lived in. Once the fighting does kick off (and it will happen a lot), the visuals still manage to hold up, with some great looking effects and explosions.
The sound design is pretty solid. The voice actresses for Soph and Jess did a great job, often making funny quips and call outs during combat, though some of the best dialogue comes from the enemy NPCs that scatter the map: if you are sneaking around, you will occasionally hear them talk to each other. It goes a long way to make the world feel more alive. Weapons all sound powerful and satisfying to use and everything matches up with the visuals perfectly.
With the story pushed to the sidelines, Youngblood focuses entirely on the gameplay experience, keeping what’s good but trying to do something new with it. The gunplay is largely similar as to what it was before, which is a good thing. Killing Nazi forces has always been exciting and that is not exception here, it’s just bloody good fun. There’s a wide variety of weapons which all feel extremely satisfying to use, especially the shotgun and SMG, but more powerful weapons bring the thunder later on.
Though it’s not all that great. Bullet sponge enemies just aren’t fun to fight, as you pump entire mags of ammo into them with little impact. It breaks the flow of combat completely and it happens too often, especially with mini-bosses.
In an attempt to inject some new life into the series, Youngblood now features co-operative play for two players online (no local). You can also play the game by yourself, with an average-at-best AI controlling the other sister. It won’t do anything remarkable and will occasionally try to shoot enemies through walls, but it’s barely noticeable and you usually won’t have to wait around for your sis to open up doors or revive you if need be. If you or your partner dies, then a shared life will be removed from your pool. Lose all of them and the awful checkpoint system will take you back to your last save without giving you your ammo or all your lives back. This was particularly annoying for the final boss.
Some RPG elements have been introduced, with mixed results. As you kill enemies and complete objectives, you will gain XP which in turn will level you up and unlock skill points. The skill tree isn’t overly expansive but there is enough there for you to consider your options. There’s also a much more expansive weapon customisation system that allowed me to tweak my favourite weapons for the situation ahead. The only issue with this is that there isn’t a smooth way to customise weapons. While games like Crysis and Metro: Exodus let you switch out attachments on the fly, Youngblood forces you to go through a series of menus, all while the action is still going on, as the game doesn’t feature a pause screen.
Then you’ve got the structure of the game. To help open the world up a little more, Bethesda enlisted the help of Arkane Studios, who have made some of my favourite games in years, like Prey. Their influence is clear, as Youngblood takes a much more open-ended approach. Paris has been split into three major districts, and you can travel to these at any point in the game via the hub in the catacombs. Each of the areas is beautifully designed with plenty of routes and much needed verticallity. It’s much bigger than previous entries, but not quite large enough to be considered a proper open world. Though there is one big caveat: you shouldn’t really explore the world at first, as there are areas in which the recommended level for exploration is just too high. Just save it for after you beat the main story.
Stealth makes a return and it continues to be unsatisfying, and, on the occasion, broken. The enemy AI is too inconsistent to use stealth tactics on regularly, often being very perceptive of you off in the distance but barely noticing when you have taken down their mates a mere five feet away. Even with the camouflage that you have access to, the stealth just doesn’t really work, and I found myself giving up on it entirely about halfway through the game.
Though fans shouldn’t worry too much, more linear self-contained missions still exist and are an absolute treat. The brother tower raids are the highlights whilst a few side missions take you to unique areas. One of which has the sisters going through the underground to destroy a prototype Panzerhund. There’s also an underground section that connects the maps together which was really underutilised.
As a shooter, Wolfenstein Youngblood is a total blast. The problem is, a weak story, repetitive side quests and limited options can bring the experience down. Not all the changes to the Wolfenstein formula worked in Youngblood, but I would still recommend this to everyone looking for a co-op shooter.
Almost identical to New Colossus with a few minor changes. It still looks beautiful, all things considered.
Wolfenstein Youngblood is still very much a Wolfenstein game. It’s all about killing hordes of Nazis with style, but the RPG elements look out of place.
The voice acting is great, with special mention to the two protagonists. The weapon effects all sound decent as well.
A botched levelling system and spongy enemies bring down what could have been an otherwise excellent game.
Final Verdict: 7.5
Wolfenstein Youngblood is available now on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Wolfenstein Youngblood was provided by the publisher.